Henry Every Ensign
Henry Every, Henry Avery, Jack Avery, John Avery, Benjamin Bridgeman, and Long Ben were all the names of one infamous pirate in the late 17th century. That’s a lot of names to keep track of, but who cares what name people call you when are the richest pirate ever and you retire before being caught or killed? Henry Every’s beginning and end are both unclear and lost to time, but there’s zero doubt of his impact on piracy history with tantalizing tales of looting and high seas treachery.
Thought to have been born an Englishman in the early 1650’s, Henry took to sea life in the British Royal Navy, merchant ships, as well as slave ships. Eventually he wound up as first mate on a Spanish commissioned warship Charles II. The unhappy, mostly English crew supported his mutiny of the ship within just a few months of his joining in May of 1694. The newly minted pirate renamed the well-armed ship the “Fancy” and set off to test the waters of piracy.
The Fancy successfully attacked European merchant vessels around Africa before sailing to the lawless coasts of Madagascar. Along the way, Every sent out a declaration of his intent to spare English ships but he never lived up to that promise. The lying didn’t stop there as he later wrote a Bill of Exchange upon a fictitious bank for provisions for his crew. His quick rise to fame and terror was enough to garner the respect of other, more experienced pirates who gave him the nickname “The Arch Pirate” or “King of Pirates”. Several of these pirate ships banded together for a short time under his command to attack the Indian Mughal sea convoy returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca.
It was this attack on the Indian fleet that landed is his largest score. After several skirmishes with Indian ships, the Fancy was able to subdue the Ganj-i-Sawai, the flagship of Aurangzeb, the Mughal lord. On this ship was over 600,000 British Pounds worth of gold, silver, and jewelry. Every surviving member of the crew earned about 1,000 Pounds which at the time was worth 80 years of honest sea pay. Naturally, many of the crew, along with “Long Ben”, chose to retire. Their score was worth tens of millions of dollars in today’s currency and they’d be able to live comfortably – if they could stay under the radar. After dealing with the captured vessel’s occupants in a very traditionally pirate way and making off with such an enormous haul, the Indians as well as the British put a bounty on Every’s head. The Indian government closed all ports to English vessels until Every was found, igniting the world’s first manhunt.
Despite the large bounty on his head, Henry Every was never found and it is unclear what became of him. Several of his crew were captured and tried for piracy, however. Most were acquitted but five of them were hanged in England. Recently the coins thought to have been plundered in the Maghul event turned up in the New England and eastern US seaboard area. He and his crew likely tried to spend the money for day to day expenses while on the run.
The flag attributed to the richest pirate ever to have sailed is a modified Jolly Roger with a profiled skull sporting a bandanna and an earring on a black or red field. There aren’t any reliable accounts to confirm this design as his, but his short tenure as a pirate doesn’t make this a surprise.
Add our patch of the richest pirate to have ever sailed the seas to your collection to remind you that you can go big AND go home.
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